American Football: Colts join coach for son's funeral

Tony Dungy, the coach of the Indianapolis Colts, speaking at his son's funeral on Tuesday, used his position to try to inspire football followers both on and off the field. Dungy was talking publicly for the first time since his 18-year-old son was found dead in an apparent suicide last week, and the coach addressed more than 2,000 mourners.

He also turned to his players and, speaking as a father, issued a challenge far more important than winning football games. "You're some great guys. You really are," Dungy said. "I want to urge you to continue being who you are because our young boys in this country, they need to hear from you. If anything, be bolder in who you are. Because our boys are getting a lot of the wrong messages about what it means to be a man in this world."

Dungy and his wife, Lauren, buried their eldest son on Tuesday after an emotional two-hour service attended by NFL stars, past and present, a contingent of league officials including the commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, and the entire Colts team. Four other NFL head coaches - Dennis Green, Herman Edwards, Lovie Smith and Jack Del Rio - also came to pay their respects at Idlewild Baptist Church, just outside Tampa. So, too, did the University of Washington coach, Ty Willingham.

Dungy spoke for nearly 20 minutes, lovingly recalling James as a "mama's boy" with a "compassionate heart" - someone who loved to smile and have fun. Dungy dabbed his eyes and strained to retain composure. But his message was unwavering: His son was a "sweet young boy" who struggled with many of the same issues as others his age.

"As he got a little older, like all teenagers, he was searching for who that person was inside of him. Who he was going to be... And like most of us, I think he went through a time as a teenager that he wasn't sure his parents always had the best advice. He wasn't sure that we always had his best interest at heart," the coach said. "My daughter Tiara said it best the other day. She said: 'I just wish he could have made it until he was 20. Because when you're 17 or 18, sometimes the things you guys say to us don't always make sense... When I got to 20, they started making sense again'." Tiara, the oldest of Dungy's five children, is 21.

Before leaving for the cemetery, Dungy made a brief statement outside the church and, on behalf of his wife and family, thanked friends and fans for their support. "We loved our son very much, he loved us and we miss him terribly," he said. "James was a good young man with a compassionate heart and we were glad to have him for 18 years... God has him now for the rest of eternity."

Shortly before the service began, the Colts entered a side door to the main auditorium of the 5,200-seat church, filed past the open casket and took their seats to the right of the family section.

Dungy, with his right arm draped around his wife's shoulder, led the family in and stood in front of the cherrywood casket to say a final goodbye. The couple took seats in a pew a few feet away, then watched solemnly as the lid was closed and the service began.

Dungy left the Colts last Thursday, on the day his son was found, and it is unclear when he will return. A preliminary autopsy report indicated the teenager took his own life, but the exact cause of death will not be released until a toxicology examination is completed in four to six weeks.

Dungy said that James should be remembered as a thoughtful youngster who was intensely loyal.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Recruitment Genius: Invoicing Clerk

£14500 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are contractors to...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy